Sunday, October 23, 2016

Roar (1981 film)

Written, directed, and starring Noel Marshall, Roar is the story of a family visiting their patriarch in a secluded home where they’re attacked by animals. Considered one of the most notorious and dangerous films ever made, it is infamous for its 11-year production in which 70 cast and crew members were harmed during the making of the film by real animals. Also starring Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, Jerry Marshall, and John Marshall. Roar is a scary and dangerous film from Noel Marshall and some wild fuckin’ animals.

Here’s an idea for a vacation. A family goes to Africa to meet their patriarch whom they hadn’t seen in years as they learn he isn’t home but at the house are a bunch of lions, tigers, jaguars, panthers, cheetahs, and cougars who roam and attack the family scaring them to death. That is pretty much what the film is about as it involves this reclusive man who lives amongst the wild in his home as he awaits for his wife and three teenage children to arrive while dealing with a society who wants to get rid of the animals. The film’s screenplay by Noel Marshall, with additional contributions by Ted Cassidy, doesn’t have much of plot as it’s about this guy who is so caught up with his collection of wild animals as he is trying to protect them as well as wait for his wife and children to arrive. The man’s wife Madeleine (Tippi Hedren) and their children wouldn’t just deal with these animals but also try to survive without him.

Marshall’s direction is definitely intense for the fact that the film was made real animals as they would be in the house, walk around, and at times attack anything and anyone. Shot on location in Marshall’s private home in Acton, California as Africa, the film does play into something that feels like a vacation in Hell where a family goes to Africa and get a very close encounter with some fucking animals that would include some elephants. The usage of the close-ups and medium shots play into how animals would react as it would also include these very chilling moments as it is clear into why Marshall would give these animals credit in the writing and directing. Especially as the way they would attack the actors and terrorize them add a realness to what is going on as if it is a horror movie. Marshall would also maintain that air of spontaneity in the direction as a way to let the animals take control while the actors are the ones that had act into the environment they’re in. Overall, Marshall and the animals create a film that is just dangerous and thrilling about a family’s hellish vacation in a house full of wild animals.

Cinematographer/co-editor Jan de Bont, along with co-editor Jerry Marshall, does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it is very bright and colorful to play into the locations of the daytime exteriors as well as some scenes at night while much of the editing is straightforward with some fast-cuts to play into the intense action. Production designer Joel Marshall does brilliant work with the look of the home that the characters live in as well as the rooms which the animals would destroy. Sound supervisor Kees Linthorst does superb work with the sound in capturing the many sounds of the animals roaring and such as well as capturing the chaos that goes on throughout the production. The film’s music by Terrence P. Minogue is terrific for its mixture of serene orchestral pieces with some traditionally-based African music while there are also some score pieces that are offbeat as it play into the action as the soundtrack also include some very serene yet offbeat songs.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable roles from Frank Tom as a poacher aide of the antagonist Prentiss, Steve Miller as the evil poacher Prentiss, and Kyalo Mativo as Hank’s assistant Mativo who has a hard time dealing with the animals and having to distract them. The performances of Melanie Griffith, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall as fantastic as they basically use their first names for the roles as three teenagers who would have terrifying encounters with the animals with Melanie Griffith being the most frightened as she was actually mauled during the production. Tippi Hedren is excellent as Madeleine as Hank’s estranged wife who hadn’t seen her husband for years as she is frightened by what she sees as she actually does break her legs for a scary scene involving an elephant.

Noel Marshall is superb as Hank as a man trying to maintain a lively environment for the animals as well as try to break up fights as he is just this crazed lunatic that is trying to relate to the animals. The film’s best performances definitely go to the cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, cougars, elephants, panthers, and the lions including the head lion Robbie, the blood-thirsty Togar, and Robbie’s young son Gary.

Roar is an absolutely insane film from Noel Marshall. While it’s not actually presented as a horror film, the fact that real animals were used and that 70 cast and crew members were actually harmed just makes the film a really scary experience. As a film, it’s truly riveting to watch as it’s just a lot of fun for how fucking nuts it is. In the end, Roar is a wild and rapturous film from Noel Marshall.

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Directed by Robert Wiene and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is the story of a hypnotist who orders a sleepwalker to kill people. Considered to be one of the first horror films ever made, the film is an exploration into what kind of power can drive a man to have another do his dastardly deeds. Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover, and Hans Twardowski. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a riveting and evocative film from Robert Wiene.

The film is a simple story about circus hypnotist who has a sleepwalker kill people for him as it is told by a man whose friend had been murdered. It’s largely told in a stylish fashion as it begins with a man named Francis (Friedrich Feher) telling his story to a man at a hospital as he and his fiancĂ©e Jane (Lil Dagover) are both recovering from what they experienced. There, the main narrative is told where Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Twardowski) go to the fair where they meet the titular character (Werner Krauss) who is performing a trick with his sleepwalker Cesare (Conrad Veidt) who would tell Alan an unsettling premonition. It would then set the tone for what would come as a series of mysterious murders happen in this small town as well as the mystery into who is killing them and such. The script would also have this air of suspense in what is going on while there is a sense of horror in a scene where a victim is killed but it’s really shown in shadows.

Robert Wiene’s direction is truly mesmerizing as it has these gorgeous compositions and imagery that is truly beautiful to look at. While there aren’t any camera movements and is shot entirely in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio which was typical in silent cinema. The compositions in the wide and medium shots do have this air of beauty in the world that Wiene shows as it is set in a small town in early 20th Century Germany while Wiene would also use medium shots and close-ups to play into some of the intimacy. Yet, he would create these compositions and moods into some of the images including a murder scene where it’s about what is not shown rather than what is shown. There are also these moments that are quite scary as Wiene create these moments that are eerie as it relates to the titular character as well as what he does. Plus, there’s a few twists and turns that add a lot to the film as it play into not just the identity of Dr. Caligari but also the idea off how men can be controlled in such ways to do evil. Overall, Wiene creates an ominous yet riveting film about a series of murders in the hands of a hypnotist.

Cinematographer Willy Hameister does excellent work with the cinematography where its usage of lighting, shadows, and shades help create a look for some of the interior scenes as well as in the exteriors. Art directors Walter Reimann, Walter Rohrig, and Hermann Warm do amazing work with the look of the sets including the backgrounds for the walls as well as the look of the sets which add to the film‘s unique visual language. Costume designer Walter Reimann does nice work with the clothes as it relates to the look of the titular character. The film’s music by Giuseppe Becce, with additional work by Timothy Brock for the 2014 restoration, is fantastic for its mixture of somber classical pieces to eerie organ-based music with woodwinds that help play into the suspense.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Elsa Wagner as a landlady who discovers a body, Rudolf Klein-Rogge as a criminal accused of the murders, Hans Lanser-Ludolff as the old man Francis tells the story to, and Rudolf Lettinger as Jane’s father Dr. Olsen. Hans Twardowski is terrific as Francis’ friend Alan who gets a chilling premonition while Lil Dagover is wonderful as their object of affection in Jane who would have an eerie encounter with Cesare. Friedrich Feher is fantastic as Francis as a young man who would try and investigate who has been doing the murders as he becomes personally connected to what is happening. Conrad Veidt is brilliant as Cesare in this eerie performance as a sleepwalker who is controlled to do Dr. Caligari’s bidding as it is a very scary performance to watch. Finally, there’s Werner Krauss in a spectacular performance as Dr. Caligari as this hypnotist who is in control of everything and the mastermind of these murders as it’s a very creepy performance from Krauss who goes all out and creates one of the great villains in horror.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a phenomenal film from Robert Wiene. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a brooding premise, and a majestic music soundtrack, the film isn’t just one of the defining films of German Expressionism but also a film that is still enchanting as it bear a lot of elements that would define the ideas of what horror films could be. In the end, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a sensational film from Robert Wiene.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Lords of Salem

Written and directed by Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem is the story of a radio disc jockey whose life changes after listening to a strange recording relating to a coven of witches in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. The film is an exploration into the many historical aspects about Salem and its witches where a radio DJ becomes entranced by this dark culture of Satanic witches. Starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Maria Conchita Alonso, Dee Wallace, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Meg Foster. The Lords of Salem is an eerie and chilling film from Rob Zombie.

The film follows the week in the life of a radio disc jockey who is given a mysterious record by a group called the Lords as it feature strange recordings as it involve an infamous coven of witches from Salem dating back to the 17th Century. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the film revolves around the myth about this coven of Satanic-worshipping witches where this disc jockey becomes entranced by its recording as she starts to see strange things around her. Especially as a writer about the Salem witch trials makes a discovery about the recording that was played as well as the family that the disc jockey is from. Rob Zombie’s screenplay definitely play into these legendary stories about the Salem witch trials of the 17th Century but also how it would remerge in modern-day Salem where it would haunt this woman who is also a recovering drug addict. The images she sees definitely blur the line into what is real but also what is surreal as the character of Heidi La Rock (Sheri Moon Zombie) would anguish over these hallucinations as well as the contents of these mysterious recordings.

Zombie’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the compositions and moods that he creates. Shot on location in Salem, Massachusetts with some scenes shot in California, Zombie maintains an air of simplicity to many of the exteriors set in Salem as if it is this quaint little town with this dark history. While there are playful elements in the film such as the scenes of Heidi working with her other disc jockeys playing music. Zombie maintains something that is very eerie in his approach to the compositions as it include these intimate moments at the apartment that Heidi lives at which includes a room that no one lives at where it is at the heart of the mystery in the film. Once Heidi discovers what is in there, Zombie adds elements of dazzling surrealism into the film as well as maintain a slow but eerie momentum into the horror and suspense.

Especially in the third act where her character descends into darkness while the writer Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) would make a chilling discovery about Heidi and what is happening in Salem. Zombie would also put in these moments that play into what is coming where the third act is key to what is happening to Heidi and what is coming for the women in Salem who are the descendants involved in the burning of those witches. Zombie’s eerie compositions with the usage of the wide and medium shots capture a lot of coverage to what is happening as well as create something that is scary but also beautiful. Overall, Zombie creates a haunting yet evocative film about a woman’s encounter with the witches of Salem in the modern world.

Cinematographer Brandon Trost does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it has a graininess that is just fitting for the film while it has some gorgeous lighting for some of the interior scenes at night as well as maintain something straightforward for the daytime scenes. Editor Glenn Garland does excellent work with the editing as it‘s usage of jump-cuts, stylish montages, and some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense is a highlight of the film. Production designer Jennifer Spence and set decorator Lori Mazuer do amazing work with the look of the theatre halls and rooms for some of the ceremonies as well as creating something straightforward and stylish in Heidi‘s apartment room and the radio booth she works at. Costume designer Leah Butler does nice work with the costumes from the ragged yet stylish look of Heidi as well as the very creepy look of the witches in the flashback scenes.

Special makeup effects artist Brian Rae does fantastic work with the look of the witches for the 17th Century sequences as well as some of the creepy makeup Heidi would wear in the surrealistic moments. Visual effects supervisor Craig A. Mumma does terrific work with the film‘s minimal visual effects as it play into some of the scary and surreal sequences as it has this air of realism in its look. Sound editor Eric Lalicata does superb work with the sound as it has these unique textures to play into the suspense in some of the sparse and low mixes as well in some of the intense moments of terror. The film’s music by John 5 and Griffin Boice is incredible for its mixture of ambient and blues-based guitar to these haunting moments of music that is key to the discovery of what Heidi would encounter while music supervisor Tom Rowland creates a soundtrack of different kinds of music from artists/acts like Rick James, Rush, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and the Velvet Underground as well as classical pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The casting by Monika Mikkelsen is marvelous as it feature some appearances and small roles from Udo Kier as a witch hunter, Torsten Voges as a death-metal singer, Richard Fancy as an expert of the Salem witch hunt that Francis turns to, and Andrew Prine as Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne as the man who would take down the coven back in the 17th Century and leave behind recollection of these events. Other notable small roles include Ken Foree as the smooth disc jockey Herman “Munster” Jackson and Maria Conchita Alonso as Francis’ wife Alice who would play the piece on piano that is similar to the recording that is haunting the town of Salem. Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn are fantastic in their respective roles as Lacy’s sisters Sonny and Megan with Wallace as lively sister who makes great tea and Quinn as the quirky British sister who can do palm reading. Meg Foster is excellent in the role of the coven leader Margaret Morgan as this mysterious yet feral woman who exudes all of the aspects of evil as it is just this very scary role.

Judy Geeson is brilliant as Lacy as Heidi’s landlord who is concerned for her but also carries a mysterious secret that is very intriguing. Jeff Daniel Phillips is superb as Herman “Whitey” Salvador as radio disc jockey who works with Heidi as he becomes increasingly concerned for her well-being. Bruce Davison is amazing as Francis Matthias as this writer about Salem witches who makes a key discovery based on a record that was played during a radio interview as he goes more into depth over the witch hunt and trial. Finally, there’s Sheri Moon Zombie in a phenomenal performance as Heidi La Rock as a radio disc jockey and recovering drug addict that is haunted by a recording she has listened to as she becomes anguished into the things she sees while being on edge into what is happening to her.

The Lords of Salem is a remarkable film from Rob Zombie. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, provocative themes on witches and evil, and a killer music soundtrack. The film is definitely Zombie’s most accomplished film to date as it has an atmosphere and air of darkness that is common with horror films but also not afraid to not take itself seriously. In the end, The Lords of Salem is a sensational film from Rob Zombie.

Rob Zombie Films: (House of 1000 Corpses) - (The Devil’s Reject) - Grindhouse-Werewolf Women of the S.S. - (Halloween (2007 film)) - (Halloween II (2009 film)) - (The Haunted World of El Superbeasto) - (31 (2016 film))

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ghosts of Mars

Directed and co-scored by John Carpenter and written by Carpenter and Larry Sulkin, Ghosts of Mars is the story of an intergalactic police officer and her team traveling to Mars for a prison transport where things go wrong in the planet. Set in the 22nd century, the film is a sci-fi horror thriller where space cops and a criminal team up to battle monsters on Mars. Starring Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Clea Duvall, Pam Grier, and Joanna Cassidy. Ghosts of Mars is a stylish but messy film from John Carpenter.

It’s the 22nd Century where Mars has been colonized and the planet is now breathable to humanity yet towns are ravaged where the intergalactic police make an unsettling discovery just as they were to transport a prisoner. That is pretty much what the film is about where cops is forced to work with a convicted murderer to fight these monsters as they were once human who are now possessed by ghosts from Mars. Yet, it is told in a reflective manner by Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) who reports what happened during a simple prison transfer job to her superiors as it reveals a much larger story. The film’s screenplay is quite simple yet it has a lot of expositions and perspective from other characters in what they saw including Dr. Arlene Whitlock (Joanna Cassidy) who revealed how these ghosts emerge. The multiple perspectives and expositions do create a script that is very messy as well as be over-explained and not allow the audience to create their interpretations into what happened.

John Carpenter’s direction is definitely stylish as it plays into a futuristic setting as much of the film is set at night. Shot on location at a gypsum mine in New Mexico, the film plays into this world that is emerging in its colonization state but is becoming undone by these monsters. While Carpenter would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations, he maintains an intimacy with the medium shots and close-ups as it plays to the severity of what Lt. Ballard and her fellow officers are facing. There are some moments that are exciting in the action but the suspense is kind of lacking as well as uninspired due to the fact that it feels derivative from other kind of films that Carpenter has made. Even as some of the moments involving the visual effects seem to be lacking as it’s probably due to the limitations in the budget. Despite these shortcomings, the film is still entertaining while not taking itself seriously as it does have some humor. Overall, Carpenter creates a thrilling though flawed film about space cops and criminals fighting evil ghosts on Mars.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does excellent work with the cinematography from the usage of lights and distorted images for some of the scenes involving the ghosts to the interiors as it‘s mostly straightforward. Editor Paul C. Warschilka does some fine work in the editing though it‘s over stylized with its transition wipes and dissolves as it goes a little overboard. Production designer William A. Elliot, with set decorator Ronald R. Reiss and art directors William Hiney and Mark W. Mansbridge, does fantastic work with the look of places on Mars as well as the interior for the prisons and such. Costume designer Robin Michel Bush does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly low-key while it‘s more creative for the look of the creatures the cops and criminals have to deal with.

The special effects makeup work of Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero is brilliant for the look of the possessed humans who have become enraged Martians as they all have something unique in their look. Visual effects supervisor Lance Wilhoite does some OK work with the visual effects for some of the scenes involving the trains though the effects in the battle scenes look unfinished and awkward. Sound editor Joe Dorn and sound designer David Bartlett do terrific work with the sound as it play into the way the Martians sound as well as some of the gunfire and such. The film’s music by John Carpenter is superb for its electronic-based score filled with synthesizers as the music also feature contributions from the thrash metal band Anthrax as well as some contributions from Elliot Easton of the Cars, Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails/Guns N’ Roses, Steve Vai, and Buckethead.

The casting by Reuben Cannon is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Robert Carradine as a train engineer, Wanda de Jesus as a criminal who fights the Martians, the trio of Duane Davis, Lobo Sebastian, and Rodney A. Grant as a trio of thugs trying to break out Desolation Williams, Liam Waite as the space cop Descanso, and Richard Cetrone as the Martians leader. Joanna Cassidy is terrific as Dr. Arlene Whitlock as a scientist who saw the chaos that unleashed the ghost Martians while Pam Grier is alright in her small role as the police leader Commander Braddock. Clea Duvall is superb as the rookie cop Bashira Kincaid as a young woman new to the field as she is in shock in what she’s seeing as she would eventually grow to kick some ass.

Jason Statham is fantastic as Sgt. Jericho Butler as the comic relief of the film who is a smooth talker and says the funniest lines while being this full-on badass as only someone like Statham could play that role to the fullest. Ice Cube is excellent as James “Desolation” Williams as a wanted murderer who is supposed to be transferred to a prison as he is a cunning and skilled fighter that is aware of what is going as well as reveal some truths into the murders he’s been accused of. Finally, there’s Natasha Henstridge in a brilliant performance as Lt. Melanie Ballard as this no-nonsense cop with a weakness for hallucinogenic drugs that is eager to do her job while knowing what is out there as she tries to help her fellow cops and such fight off against the Martians.

Despite some clunky visual effects and an overwritten yet messy script, Ghosts of Mars is still a worthwhile film from John Carpenter. Thanks in part to a nice soundtrack and fun performances from Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, and Jason Statham. It’s a film that has some style as well as moments where it doesn’t take itself so seriously. In the end, Ghosts of Mars is a good film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter (Part 1) - (Part 2)

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: The Exorcist

Directed by William Friedkin and written by William Peter Blatty that is based on the novel by the latter, The Exorcist is the story of a 12-year old girl who has been possessed by a demon as her mother calls upon two priests to save the girl. The film is a study into the concept of possession, evil, and what men must do to save the life of an innocent girl. Starring Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jason Miller, Mercedes McCambridge, Jack McGowran, and Max von Sydow. The Exorcist is a visceral and terrifying film from William Friedkin.

The film is a simple story of a girl who is possessed by a demon as she inhabits strange and destructive behaviors as her mother calls upon a priest to find out what is going on after doctors and scientists come to no conclusion. It’s a film that is about faith but also evil at its most diabolical where a girl is possessed by this demon where a troubled priest has to find out what he’s facing as he would call upon someone who is experienced with the idea of exorcism. William Peter Blatty’s screenplay is very complex in its approach to the narrative where it takes this simple premise and broaden it to create something grand and engaging. While the film is largely set in the Georgetown section of Washington D.C. where the actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is living for a film shoot as she has taken her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) to the production. The film begins in Iraq where an elderly priest in Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) is doing archeology work as he makes a chilling discovery that would set the tone for the entire film.

One of the unique aspects of the script is the strand of multiple narratives that are told as there is the story about Chris and her daughter Regan as the latter becomes possessed. Their narrative starts off as a normal story of a mother and daughter living in Georgetown with Chris being a normal mother despite her demanding profession. When Regan starts to feel sick and do strange thing, the story becomes more intense where Regan would eventually be possessed as the voice of this strange demon would emerge harming Regan and those who come close to her. Another part of the narrative involves a priest in Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) as a psychiatrist for a nearby church in Georgetown who has just lost his mother and blames himself where he would also lose his faith. Father Karras’ narrative would show a man unsure if he can do his duty as he is lost while he reluctantly helps Chris after meeting the police detective Lt. William F. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) who investigates a murder nearby the MacNeil home.

Blatty’s script also succeeds in its structure where the second act is where Father Karras and Chris would meet as it play into the concept of exorcism. It’s where Father Karras would meet the possessed Regan for the first time as he is aware of what must be done but he’s also conflicted due to his lack of faith. The film’s third act is about the exorcism where Father Merrin comes in as he knows how to perform the exorcism. The climax that is about the exorcism is definitely intense as well as intriguing for the fact that these two priests are dealing with a little girl who is speaking the words of evil.

William Friedkin’s direction is definitely evocative in terms of the compositions and the mood he creates for these moments of terror and suspense. While much of the film is shot largely in Washington D.C. as the home where Regan and Chris live in is shot in New York City as some of its exteriors are also shot. The film begins with this beautiful sequence in Mosul, Iraq as it is an odd way to start a horror film but it does play into what Father Merrin would discover during a typical archeology find. What he sees would set the tone for what would come as the first ten minutes set in Iraq would then shift into Washington D.C. where everything is calm and straightforward at first. The usage of the wide and medium shots help play into the locations where Friedkin isn’t trying to establish certain locations but is more about playing into a city that is becoming haunted by strange events.

Friedkin’s approach to the suspense and horror is slow-building as well as be in unexpected moments such as the spider-crawl sequence as well as a moment where doctors try to treat Regan only to be baffled by what they saw. The moments of violence is quite intense as well as being very scary for some of the sequences where Regan, in her possessed state, would attack her own mother. Some of Friedkin’s compositions are ravishing for the way it displays the severity of the situation as it would come to ahead in this climatic third act where Father Merrin would make another appearance since the film’s opening sequence for this exorcism. The exorcism sequence goes on for a good 30 minutes as it has a lot going on as well as moments that are very scary as it play into the idea of good vs. evil and faith where the latter has Father Karras is still haunted by his own sins. What happens in this sequence isn’t about saving a girl’s life but what men would do to rid of evil from the world. Overall, Friedkin creates an intoxicating yet riveting film about priests trying to save a possessed young girl from the clutches of evil.

Cinematographer Owen Roizman does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography for the many interior lighting and shading for the scenes at the MacNeil house to some of the nighttime exteriors set in Washington D.C. as well as some of the daytime scenes with Billy Williams providing some beautiful photography for the scenes set in Iraq. Editors Norman Gay and Evan A. Lottman do amazing work with the editing as it has these unique rhythms that play into the suspense with some jump-cuts as well as some other stylish cuts that help create that sense of terror. Production designer Bill Malley, with set decorator Jerry Wunderlich and art director John Robert Lloyd, does excellent work with the look of the MacNeil home and its rooms as well as Regan‘s that include the bed when it shakes plus the homes and places of the other characters. Costume designer Joseph Fretwell III does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual with the exception of the pea-stained nightgown of Regan that is filled with all sorts of crazy shit.

Makeup artist Dick Smith, with special effects makeup work by Rick Baker, does incredible work with the look of Regan in her possessed state as well as the look of Father Merrin as this elderly-looking priest. The sound work Robert Knudson and Chris Newman, with additional sound editing by Richard King and sound design by Steve Boeddeker for the 2000 re-release, is fantastic for the sound effects that are created as well as those eerie moments in Regan‘s room during the exorcism sequence. The film’s music soundtrack is this great mixture of ambient-based pieces as well as some classical music that is played in the background from composers like Krzysztof Penderecki and Anton Weber as well as cuts by Les Baxter and the film’s theme music by Mike Oldfield that is just one of the most chilling piece of music on film.

The casting by Louis DiGiaimo, Nessa Hyams, and Juliet Taylor is great as it feature some notable small roles from writer William Peter Blatty as an associate of the director on the film Chris is working on, Tito Vandis as Karras’ uncle, Vasiliki Maliaros as Karras’ ailing mother, Rudolf Schundler as Chris’ servant Karl, Gina Petrushka as Karl’s wife Willi, Barton Heyman as Dr. Klein who suggests that Regan gets some special help, Peter Masterson as a doctor in the clinic, and Father William O’Malley as Father Joseph Dyer as a priest who is a friend of Karras as he tries to make sense of what is going on. Jack MacGowran is superb as Chris’ director Burke Dennings as this guy that likes to drink where he would antagonize Karl and have a very dark encounter with Regan. Kitty Winn is terrific as Chris’ friend/personal assistant Sharon who helps Chris whatever she can as she would get a close look at the horror that is the possessed Regan. Lee J. Cobb is brilliant as Lt. William F. Kinderman as a detective who investigates a murder nearby the MacNeil home as he has some very keen observation as well as being an eccentric due to his love for films.

Linda Blair is amazing in her role as Regan as this innocent and playful 12-year old girl who becomes ravaged by her possession as she maintains this great sense of physicality and terror with Mercedes McCambrige providing some great voice work as the demon who possesses Regan. Jason Miller is excellent as Father Damien Karras as this troubled priest who had lost his faith where he tries to return to some normalcy only to see what happened to Regan as he does whatever he can to help her. Max von Sydow is remarkable in a small but crucial role as Father Lankester Merrin as a Catholic priest who sees the danger of a demon’s return as he would lead the exorcism to save Regan as it’s one of von Sydow’s defining performances. Finally, there’s Ellen Burstyn in a phenomenal performance as Chris MacNeil as Regan’s mother who is trying to make sense of what has happened to her daughter as it’s just this riveting performance of a woman calling upon whoever can save her daughter.

The Exorcist is an outstanding film from William Friedkin that features astounding performances from Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, and Lee J. Cobb. Along with a intriguing screenplay, gorgeous visuals, eerie music and sound effects, and moments that are definitely scary. The film is truly not just a standard for the genre of horror but it’s also one of the most daring and confrontational films about faith and the ideas of good vs. evil. In the end, The Exorcist is a magnificent film from William Friedkin.

William Friedkin Films: (Good Times) - (The Birthday Party) - (The Night They Raided Minsky’s) - (The Boys in the Band) - The French Connection - Sorcerer - (Brink’s Job) - Cruising - (Deal of the Century) - To Live and Die in L.A. - (Rampage (1987 film)) - (The Guardian (1990 film)) - (Blue Chips) - (Jailbreakers) - (Jade) - (12 Angry Men (1997 TV film)) - (Rules of Engagement) - (The Hunted (2003 film)) - Bug - Killer Joe

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Village of the Damned (1995 film)

Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Village of the Damned is the story of a small town that is ravaged by mysterious children women gave birth to during following a strange blackout as they would try and control everything around them. Directed and co-scored by John Carpenter and screenplay by David Himmelstein, the film is remake of the 1960 horror film by Wolf Rilla as it is updated and set in Northern California as it play into a modern world ravaged by mysterious children. Starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare, Thomas Dekker, Meredith Salenger, and Mark Hamill. Village of the Damned is a flat-out boring and terrible film from John Carpenter.

A small yet isolated town in Northern California goes into a strange blackout where everyone passes out with a few of its locals dead where ten of its women gave birth to children nine months later as their children have become these strange and controlling figures trying to kill those who threaten them. That is pretty much the premise of the film as a whole as it has a lot of mystique into what the locals are dealing with where a doctor, a school principal, and a government agent try to figure out what is going on. The film’s screenplay, which features un-credited work from Steven Siebert and Larry Sulkis, tries to maintain that air of mystique ends up with very little answers about the blackout and why these children act so strange and kill those who threaten them with only their eyes. At the same time, there is very little development with the locals with the exception of Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve), the school principal Jill McGowan (Linda Kozlowski), and the government agent Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley).

Yet, they’re given some awful dialogue while Dr. Verner has to give a lot of exposition that never makes a lot of sense as it relates to the blackout and these powers that the children have. Jill becomes attached to her son David (Thomas Dekker) who would begin to understand and express emotions unlike the other children who were born on the same day as well as conceived on the day of the blackout. David is stunted because he doesn’t have a mate like the other kids as his supposed mate is a stillborn child while the others have someone to latch on. It also makes them very dangerous as they would make the adults, who threaten them, to kill themselves. Unfortunately, the children are among the most uninteresting antagonists in the film as they just spout a bunch of very clinical ideas as the dialogue and such just makes it sound very idiotic.

John Carpenter’s direction has some nice visual moments that play into beauty of the locations as it is shot in Marin County in California. Yet, it never really does anything to engage the audience into the suspense as Carpenter just goes for something straight due to the lackluster elements of the script. The suspense never holds up as the moments where the children would have their eyes glow to make the adults harm themselves often comes across as forced. There are these moments of violence that are intense but it also comes across as cheesy where Carpenter is really hampered by the many shortcomings of the script. The compositions in the medium shots and close-ups has Carpenter try to flesh out the drama while creating moments that are simple in the way characters interact each other. Unfortunately, it would lead to these moments of suspense as its climax that involves police and the national guard trying to stop those children becomes this ridiculous bloodbath that is very lackluster. Overall, Carpenter creates a very uneventful and lazy suspense film about scary children wreaking havoc into a small town.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does nice work with the cinematography as it is mostly natural and sunny for some of the daytime exteriors in the locations while using some lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Edward A. Warschilka does terrible work with the editing as it is nonsensical at times to play into the suspense and action as well as having some odd transitions that really don‘t work. Production designer Rodger Maus, with art director Christa Munro and set decorators Rick Brown and Don De Fina, does fantastic work with the look of the town including the barn where the children would stay in the film‘s third act. Costume designer Robin Michael Bush does terrific work with the costumes as a lot of the clothes are casual with the exception of the children with their gray and white clothes.

Special makeup effects artist Rob Hinderstein and hair stylist Charlotte Parker do excellent work with the look of the kids from the white hair and pale skin as well as the creepiness of their presence. Visual effects supervisor Bruce Nicholson does fine work with some of the minimal visual effects for the blackout sequence as well as the scenes where the children‘s eyes glow. Sound editor John Dunn does superb work with some of the sound from the way the glowing eyes sound as well as some of the moments of chaos. The film’s music by John Carpenter and Dave Davies is pretty good with Carpenter providing a largely low-key synthesizer score to play into the suspense with Davies providing some blues-based guitars in the background.

The casting by Reuben Cannon, Peter Jason, Sandy King, and Cheryl Miller is decent with the actors they used though none of them really had any strong material to work. Small roles from Karen Kahn as Dr. Chaffee’s wife Barbara, Constance Forslund as Jill’s friend Gail, Peter Jason as Gail’s husband Ben, George “Buck” Flower as a janitor who doesn’t like the strange kids, and Pippa Pearthree as the reverend’s wife Sarah are among those who suffer from the script as do Michael Pare as Jill’s husband Frank who dies early in the film and Meredith Salenger as a young virgin named Melanie who would give birth to the stillborn child. Mark Hamill is miscast as Reverend George as a town minister that tries to maintain some calm as he too becomes suspicious of the children as Hamill tries to ham it up which doesn’t work.

The performances of Thomas Dekker and Lindsey Haun in their respective roles as the strange children in David and Mara are just horrible as they provide some very amateurish and unrealistic performances while their line-reading is just awful to hear as is the other child actors playing the weird kids. Linda Kozlowski is alright as Jill as a woman who loses her husband and is a mother to the boy David as she tries to see if there is any humanity in the children as she becomes attached to her son. Kirstie Alley is pretty good as Dr. Susan Verner as a government agent that knows about these events as she tries to see how to stop them but also become aware of their powers. Finally, there’s Christopher Reeve in a terrific performance as Dr. Alan Chaffee as a man that tries to talk to the children and see if there is any humanity in them as well as be one of the few who could outthink them.

Despite a few decent performances and some nice visuals, Village of the Damned is an atrocious film from John Carpenter. Due to its very poor script, lack of any meaty suspense, and too much exposition that becomes nonsensical. It’s a film that showcases a filmmaker phoning it in while never really do anything to make the story engaging. In the end, Village of the Damned is an awful film John Carpenter.

Related: (Village of the Damned (1960 film))

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone's Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter (Part 1) - (Part 2)

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Orphanage

Directed by J.A. Bayona and written by Sergio G. Sanchez, El orfanato (The Orphanage) is the story of a woman who returns to the orphanage where she was raised in the hopes to turn it into for disable children only for the place to become haunted once her adopted son disappears. The film is a ghost story that explores the place where a woman returns to her home as she copes with the dark secrets at the orphanage. Starring Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andres Gertrudix, Edgar Vivar, and Geraldine Chaplin. El orfanato is a riveting and mesmerizing film from J.A. Bayona.

The film is about a woman who returns to the orphanage where she was raised as a child in the hopes to turn it into a home for disabled children where her adopted son communicates with imaginary friends and then suddenly disappear. It’s a film that is really about a woman returning to a place where she grew up as she learns about the dark secrets of the orphanage and its nearby surroundings including a cave and the beach. Notably as a ghost would haunt the place and cause trouble as her son would disappear leading to a long search as this woman named Laura (Belen Rueda) copes with her son’s disappearance as well as the secrets of the orphanage. The film’s screenplay by Sergio G. Sanchez has this unique structure that play into Laura and her search for her son but also in seeing if there are ghosts. The first act is about Laura, her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and their adopted son Simon (Roger Princep) living in the orphanage as well as Simon’s sudden disappearance.

The second act is about Laura and Carlos finding their son as they seek the help of a police psychologist in Pilar (Mabel Rivera) as they explore the orphanage and its surroundings. Especially as Laura copes with the things her son claims to have seen including a mysterious boy in a mask known as Tomas (Oscar Casas) and an old woman she had met early in the film claiming to be a social worker. The social worker is a mystery herself as Laura realizes that some of the things she found out about the orphanages forces her to go ghosts experts including a medium named Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin) who would be the key to finding out some truth into what Laura wants to find. The third act is about Laura trying to communicate with the ghosts as well as try to see if Simon is still alive.

J.A. Bayona’s direction is definitely entrancing for the way he creates suspense in some of the most unexpected moments but also build it up without taking away the dramatic elements. Shot on location in Llanes, Asturias in Spain, the film definitely favors a more rural setting with a location near the beach as well as caves for a scene where Simon goes inside and claims to meet Tomas there. Bayona would create a lot of intimacy in his compositions to help maintain that suspense as well as play with its rhythms for false scares while creating moments that are unexpected. The usage of the close-ups and medium shots help maintain that intimacy along with some wide shots that is key to the sequence of Aurora trying to contact the ghosts. The third act does have a twist in its climax as it reveal things that happened on the day of Simon’s disappearance but it is more about grief and loss over the things Laura encountered at the orphanage as well as it’s history where she tries to make things right. Overall, Bayona creates an eerie yet enchanting film about a woman trying to find her son in the orphanage where she once lived at as a child.

Cinematographer Oscar Faura does excellent work with the film‘s somewhat de-saturated look of tinted blue and green colors to help play into the mood for many of the interiors as well as in the lighting to create that feel of suspense and horror. Editor Elena Ruiz does brilliant work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts help play into the suspense and dramatic elements of the film. Production designer Josep Rosell and set decorator/art director Inigo Navarro do fantastic work with the look of the orphanage as well as some of the rooms including the one that Carlos made to find where Simon could be in the area. Costume designer Maria Reyes does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the look of the women who ran the orphanage in the past as well as the clothes that Laura‘s old childhood friends wore at the orphanage.

Special effects makeup work by David Marti and Montse Ribe do amazing work with the look of Tomas when he‘s not wearing the mask as well in some of the moments of death. Visual effects supervisor Jordi San Agustin does terrific work with some of the minimal visual effects that play into some of the horror that includes the scenes involving ghosts and super 8mm films that Laura would watch. Sound designer Oriol Tarrago does superb work with the sound as the mixing and design help play into the suspense into what Laura is hearing as well as Aurora during the sequence where she tries to communicate with the ghosts. The film’s music by Fernando Velasquez does incredible work with the film’s orchestral-based score as it help play into the drama as well as the suspense where it would appear in moments that are unexpected.

The casting by Geli Albaladejo is marvelous as it include some notable small roles from Edgar Vivar as a professor who studies the supernatural, Andres Gertrudix as the professor’s sound technician, Carol Suarez as the younger version of the mysterious social worker, Mireia Renau as the young Laura, and Oscar Casas in a terrific performance as the mysterious child known as Tomas. Montserrat Carulla is wonderful as the mysterious social worker who knows something about Simon as she has something to do with the orphanage. Mabel Rivera is fantastic as Pilar as a police psychiatrist who helps Laura and Carlos find Simon while wondering if there are really ghosts at the orphanage. Roger Princep is excellent as Simon as young boy who has imaginary friends as he learns some harsh truths about himself and then suddenly disappears.

Geraldine Chaplin is amazing as Aurora as a medium who can communicate to ghosts as she is able to understand what Laura is going through as well as try to help her in finding Simon. Fernando Cayo is brilliant as Carlos as Laura’s husband who is also a doctor as he is eager to find his son but also becomes suspicious of the people who think that ghosts are involved. Finally, there’s Belen Rueda in a phenomenal performance as Laura as a woman who returns to the orphanage that she was raised in the hopes to do some good with it as she is ravaged by her son’s disappearance as Rueda brings an anguish and drive to her performance which is a major highlight of the film.

El orfanato is a spectacular film from J.A. Bayona that features an incredible performance from Belen Rueda. Along with a great supporting cast, an inventive screenplay, and some eerie technical work, it’s a film that is fascinating ghost story that has some chills and moments that stray away from conventional horror tropes. In the end, El orfanato is a sensational film from J.A. Bayona.

J.A. Bayona Films: The Impossible - (A Monster Calls)

© thevoid99 2016